The ‘Iceman’ has folklore status in the American mountain bike scene. Traditionally it is the very last race of the year for the US based pro’s. But the status and prize purse of the race has grown so much over the 24 year history of the race that it now attracts an international field of pro’s and amateurs alike. The race is held in Far Northern USA, in Traverse City, Michigan. A town renowned for it’s fine cherry, wine orchards and the now famous ‘Vasser’ trail used for MTB in the summer and XC skiing in the winter. The Iceman race always falls at the shoulder of these 2 seasons in November. Given the usually freezing cold weather and relatively short distance of this point to point race, it is one of the very few MTB races, where full leg warmers are a necessity for during the race! The 2013 edition was no exception, rain on the days preceding the event gave a tacky surface on the half singletrack, half dirt road 29mile expedition from Kalkaska to Traverse City. The field this year was of high quality again, many racers from all across the country and world had travelled to this usually quiet town to have a pitch at the $52,000 prize purse on offer. In the men’s domain, the field had a heavy influence on how the race was played out. With so many riders of a similar calibre at the pointy end of the field a bunch finish looked to be on the cards. Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air Cannondale) tried in vain to get the winning gap in the singletrack final kilometers. However, in a sight nearly unheard of in MTB racing, it was a group of 8 who came into the finishing circuit duking it out for the win. In contention Kabush(SCOTT), Matter (Gear Grinder),Zandstra (Scott), Finsterwald (Trek), Ettinger (BMC), Wells(Specialized), Bishop(Sho-air/Cannondale) and former roadie Cole House. Pre race favorite Lukas Fluckiger (BMC) had disappeared into the cherry fields somewhere along the way. In the closing metre’s, it was a dash to the line with Canadian veteran of the MTB world Geoff Kabush taking the giant ICE trophy in a 2 way sprint with American Todd Wells with Jeremiah Bishop just seconds behind rounding out the podium.
It was a maple leaf weekend, with the leaves falling blanketing the Jellystone park finish area also with Catharine Pendrel (LUNA) taking the women’s race making it a Canadian clean sweep! Pendrel managed to achieve a solid gap unlike the men’s finish. With Americans Chloe Woodruff and Mackenzie Woodring rounding out the podium 2 minutes behind Pendrel. As well as the intense, fast, fun racing offered here by ‘Iceman promotions’ and the considerable prize money, much of the appeal of this race lies in the atmosphere conjured by the community here. The Iceman is world famous in Traverse City and it seems the whole town gets behind it. The race organizers have both a huge pre and post party for the racers, staff and volunteers. Including the amateur events there is nearly 5 000 riders on the trail this day. Unlike in many Australian events however, the pro’s are given the trail to themselves as the flagship event in the afternoon. Meaning by this stage the finishing area is a buzz with thousands upon thousands of spectators cheering on the competitors from the side of the trail. Also having the race naming rights sponsor being local Michigan brewery ‘Bells’ means the amber fluid is flowing for all, which I’m sure helps add to the atmosphere. Emily Batty who won the 2012 event rated the atmosphere here to be stronger and more passionate than what she feels at Olympic’s and World Cup’s.
For a short, fast, fun marathon in 2014, get to Northern Michigan for November 8th next year. Twitter: @IcemanTCMI